26 May 2011

Corruption Garden

A PV for Vocaloid Luka ... actually made me cry ...

16 May 2011

We're Doomed!

Cats in Tanks from Whitehouse Post on Vimeo.

The Monoculture of American Education

An important read on why the United States educational system is a dangerous monoculture that has been abstracted from reality.

Mike Rowe's Testimony Before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation via the Discovery Channel

See also Mike Rowe Works.

I will resist the urge to say Bloom's can suck my big rubber implem- ... oh, wait.

Spy On Your Camera!

Did you know that digital cameras include tracking information on exactly what camera took the picture? It is public information. You can call it up in Adobe Photoshop and look at it. (Which, by the way, also stores information on who editing the image, but in encrypted format so Adobe can spy on you and make sure you are using a licensed version).

Now, has your digital camera been lost or stolen?

Put the two together and you have a new Web service to offer people, the Stolen Camera Finder.

15 May 2011


Via Handmade Charlotte, whose entire blog really merits a look.

13 May 2011

Climate Change

Some bad rapping on climate change courtesy of some real climate change scientists.

Or so they claim.

Oh yah, NSFW!

via treehugger

Multiplayer Learning

Multiplayer High via boing boing.

A very good argument on why we should be looking at MMORPGs for inspiration on improving education.

12 May 2011

The Comfort Zone

One compliant I hear, and have made myself, is how hard it is to get students out of their comfort zone. They will work right up to the edge of what they know and then stop. Our challenge then, as instructors is to pull them out of that comfort zone to spur them on to learn new things and to do better.

The problem is that we so often fail to teach by example.

Much teaching looks like this:

We work hard to pull students into our own comfort zone without ever stepping out of it ourselves.

This is in part down to the somewhat balkanized nature of education, where each topic is treated as a thing in isolation assigned to different departments with different instructors and different agendas. It is also in part because we are usually hired to teach what we know, we are expected to focus on our area of expertise.

But that doesn't, or at least shouldn't, prevent us from stepping out of our own comfort zones. The way to get students out of their zones is to meet them halfway, not to pull them toward us.

By doing so, both instructors and students grow and expand their comfort zones to include more skills and talents and knowledge.

To put it another way, education needs to be about a conversation between educators and students, where each course becomes a practice of finding common ground to move beyond our respective comfort zones so that we can learn and grow as a group and as a community. But it is the educators who half to take that first step out of the bubble of the familiar, not the students.

11 May 2011

Price Stability

Why it is important to let computer algorithms set your prices for you ...

Lana, The Lady, The Legend, The Truth

What? The prices only differ by a factor of 10 billion.

Hint: If they fixed it by the time you find this, the lowest price was $0.01. The factor between prices should tell you approximately what the highest was. Maybe one of the booksellers is trying to find the money to help balance the US Federal budget.

What the Instructor Sees

I am firmly of the opinion that no matter what they may say, most educators sort of look at education like this:

That is how it felt to me as a student, and as an educator too. The problem is that education should not work that way. The point of being an educator is not to use your greater wisdom and knowledge to get students to that goal. The point of being an educator is helping students to develop the means and resources to get students to get themselves to that goal. The tools are similar. It is how they are applied that makes all the difference in the world.

We should be facilitating learning, not teaching.

Part 1: The Vise of Education

10 May 2011

The Vise of Education

Yes, there is a intentional pun there (in fact, I even spelled it wrong the first time because of that), but what I really mean is this:

Which to the typical student probably feels more like this.

Which is where I would like to begin an extended discussion of the problems of education today and what we can do to work toward a solution. This is the first step in a first draft, expect it to be revised an awful lot. I mean, I've already figured out that I needed to rename the first slide.

The vice of education is important and problematic because it crushes students between two very strong unidirectional channels, while only giving them a single much smaller channel with which to add their own voices to the classroom. This is, of course, discussion, which usually takes the form of student asks a question (or professor elicits a response) which the professor than responds to at length.

In this model, the assignments handed in are not effective channels of communication for largely the same reason that forced confessions are often not admissible in court. From the student's perspective, the work done feels coerced, squeezed out of them for the purposes of the course they are taking.

Of course, not all education is like this, and not all educators teach this way. But this is the model they are saddled with as they try to develop their own innovative solutions and workarounds.

The problem, perhaps, is that for all our talk of addressing student's needs, we really spend far too much time addressing educator's needs (or at least their belief systems). Which is to say, we spend far too much time talking abut teaching, and not enough time talking about learning.

Most new educational resources and technologies still reflect this. They are built on the model of teaching, of imparting knowledge, rather than being built on the model of exploration and experience. For all the talk, those seeking to learn are not allowed to run wherever they want in the museum, they have to follow the path and the narration of the docent. This doesn't facilitate learning, it hinders it, by creating bored students who are not allowed to go in directions that interest them.

Which really sums up the point I want to consider. How do we develop conceptualize educational technologies that are learning technologies instead of teaching technologies? Monolithic data warehouses storing the wisdom of those who came before to be fed to students (aka, any course management software package out there) who will mystically become enlightened by this fodder is definitely not the answer.

09 May 2011

The OCD Kitchen

My other half truly needs one of these for those days when they want to help in the kitchen but get all stressed out about what the "right size" is for this recipe ... the one I stopped following about three ingredients ago.

Via [Perpetual Kid].

08 May 2011

Change of Pace

Well, another school year done. A crazy one, as my heavy posting schedule during its course might sort of, kind of hint at. I am finally ready to admit that teaching turns me into a zombie. Even desk jobs that I would hate would leave me full of creative energy in the evenings, but teaching so totally drains me all I can do is sit there and go "meh".

Time for some brain recovery and a definite change of pace.

So as I recover and scheme, I would like to share the current state of my brain: